Victorian Government takes wrapping off its rental reforms

Spring Street on Sunday unveiled its package of rental reforms that will see a variety of changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (1997).

The state government has branded the reforms 'Rent Fair Victoria' and set up a website outlining the changes.

Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz said 'these changes will crack down on rental bidding, make it easier and faster for renters to get their bond back, and will hold landlords and agents to account for their actions'.

In the past, a lot of attention has focused on the drawing up and the introduction of a new optional standard long-term rental agreement that will allow tenants to sign a rental agreement lasting 5 or more years, if they so wish.  

That's present in the package of reform, but there's much more.

Landlords will now be required to disclose the known presence of asbestos in the premises prior to the signing of a contract.  Likewise, landlords will no longer be able to invoke the 120 day 'no specified reason' notice to vacate clause - going forward landlords will only be able to end a tenancy for a reason specified in the Residential Tenancies Act.

Rental bonds are also in for a shakeup.  The package would see either tenant or landlord having the ability to apply to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority to have all or part of the bond released either with or without the other party's consent.  The Rent Fair Victoria website explains this further:

If both parties agree, the RTBA will pay out the bond in full or in accordance with instructions from the parties as to any apportionment within 14 days.

If either party has not consented to the bond being paid out, the RTBA will notify that other party, which then has 14 days to notify the RTBA if they are disputing the claim. If not the bond will be automatically paid out.

This reform will mean that, in practice, tenants will lodge their bond form and if the landlord does not dispute the bond within 14 days, the tenant will be paid out by the RTBA.

The value of the bond will be capped at one month's rent for any property where rent is less than double the median weekly rent ($380) and the first month's rent requirement will also be capped at one month.  Landlords will be able to apply for an exemption on this rule from VCAT.

Rather than every 6 months, rent increases will only be able to be increased once every 12 months; likewise, landlords and agents will no longer be able to invite prospective tenants to make a rental offer higher than the fixed rental price.  Landlords and agents must only advertise a fixed rental amount, with no ranges of 'price plus' advertisements.

Correcting the current limbo that current tenants may find themselves in, tenants will be given the right of keep pets pursuant to the landlords written consent.  Outgoing tenants will be required clean and fumigate if there is pet-related damage to the property.

A new landlord and real estate agent blacklist will be introduced to allow tenants to identify landlords and agents who have previously breached their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act.

www.vic.gov.au/rentfair

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